• Science Saturday: From fasting to a pill? Mayo Clinic scientists explore the biology of caloric restriction

in Dr. Chini's lab, Karina Kanamori Mendes, M.D., measures mitochondrial activity in a muscle sample from a clinical trial subject

New year, same topics: nutrition, healthy eating and slowing the downhill roll of aging. Eat this, not that — never that — and try this one weird thing to look younger, right? Advice spans the spectrum from dubious to scientifically supported, but there is an approach that sidesteps it all: eat less. Either in a specific time frame or in general, limiting calories safely is called caloric restriction, food restriction or fasting. It's not a new idea, but fasting as a health practice hasn't taken off, and Eduardo Chini, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic researcher, knows why.

"One of the things that make us happy is interaction with food, interaction with other people, so it can be a social burden," he says. "If you restrict calories all the time, you will probably be unhappy."

But emerging research suggests health benefits are linked to eating less, so researchers want to know: How can people eat a slice of cake but benefit as if they'd only had a bite? Dr. Chini, and other researchers at Mayo and elsewhere, are researching the biological effect of caloric restriction to understand if its benefits can be replicated through medication.

If researchers can sort out the complex network of actions kicked off by eating less, they can potentially offer new options for a wide range of diseases.

Read the rest of the article on the Discovery's Edge blog.


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